Springs committee increases awareness of precious resources
By Christopher Fischer
and Don Lee
EUREKA SPRINGS -- The Eureka Springs Committee of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission is currently installing more than 60 storm water medallions around town.
By applying these custom blue medallions near storm drains, the Springs Committee hopes to increase awareness of water quality and runoff in the community's unique springs.
The four-inch, stainless steel medallions are decorated with an embossed Williams crayfish and the motto, "Drains to Springs."
The endangered Williams crayfish is unique to northwest Arkansas, and southwest Missouri. The Williams crayfish is a prime indicator of a healthy environment.
"We hope these medallions will help educate our community about the need to protect the water quality of our springs," said Barbara Harmony, chair of the Eureka Springs Committee. "People should never pour dirty water, household chemicals, cigarette butts or oil down the storm drains.
"Pollutants like oil and unneeded household chemicals are accepted for proper disposal at the city's recycling center on Highway 62 next to Public Works. Help us reduce polluted runoff by making sure that only rain goes down the drain."
The medallion project was funded by the Eureka Springs Preservation Society and private donors Jim Helwig, Paula Adkins, Ken Pownall, Joe Scott and Jamie Froelich.
Harmony said people can also help protect the quantity of water in the springs by properly landscaping their yards to slow down the stormwater runoff and allow the water to seep into the ground, where it joins the underground water network that forms Eureka's system of springs.
Brochure educates and informs
The Springs Committee recently published a brochure called Living in the Leatherwood Creek Watershed, a Citizen's Guide that's full of tips about how proper land management can protect the region's lovely but fragile environment.
The brochure is available at the city's Public Works offices, the Carnegie Public Library, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and the city's Parks office, located in the Log Cabin at Harmon Park.
"Eureka Springs is known worldwide for its gardens and extensive landscaping," Harmony said. "It is possible to continue this wonderful tradition while at the same time protecting our springs."
Karst of the Ozarks
Like much of the rest of northwest Arkansas, the Leatherwood Creek watershed, including Eureka Springs, has a unique limestone geology. Water flowing over and through the limestone causes it to dissolve, creating the caves, sinkholes, springs and disappearing streams characteristic of the region's karst terrain.
"Karst areas are among the world's most distinct, fascinating, resource-rich, yet problematic terrains," The Leatherwood Creek Guide says. "Groundwater flowing up through karst terrain is a source of drinking and domestic water, replenishes surface water in streams and lakes (notably Lake Leatherwood), and supports a living ecosystem.
"The creatures that inhabit the subsurface created by karst terrain are often not evident to us. These animals have adapted to the fluctuating groundwater, moving deeper underground as the water levels fall, and moving back up when rain replenishes ground water reserves.
"Karst terrain is very vulnerable to environmental impact because its groundwater can easily be polluted by surface contaminants. To protect the streams, springs, groundwater and lakes of our watershed, we need to be aware of potential problems and take positive steps to minimize our presence in this unique and special place."
How to protect your karst
To protect water quality, the following practices are recommended:
* Reduce use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
* Increase use of native and adapted plants.
* Use porous paving materials like brick-in-sand patios, flagstone walks, or gravel in place of concrete pavement.
* Liberally mulch around landscaped beds. Mulch reduces water use and weeds and slows down water.
Traditional building techniques are designed to remove storm water from the property as quickly as possible. In consequence, huge tracts of land become deprived of water, while streams and rivers are inundated with the extra flow. As less water percolates into the ground, the springs have less flow.
Residents can slow the movement of water over their property by building berms and swales on the contour.
A berm is a mound of earth, engineered to serve a specific purpose. A swale is a valleylike intersection of two slopes in a piece of land.
The Guide recommends pointing gutters away from foundations to avoid settling problems and using gravel or rock, rather than concrete, to create an infiltration zone underneath the gutters.
It also recommends keeping all areas where water flows well-vegetated. Vegetation acts as a filter strip, removing pollutants and sediment from the storm water.
To minimize the impact of construction on the karst ecosystem while at the same time ensuring the structure will not be compromised by the cracking and sagging that can occur on unstable ground, it recommends maintaining a buffer zone of at least 100 feet around caves, sinkholes and springs.
It is a good idea not to disturb the native vegetation within this buffer zone.
Other tips for healthy springs include the following:
* Install sediment controls like silt fences and filter strips to prevent sediment movement.
* Dispose of excess concrete and wash water well away from karst features.
* Revegetate bare earth as soon as possible.
* Use permeable materials instead of impermeable materials whenever possible.
* Do not build on active karst features such as losing streams, sinkholes or springs.
* Do not use heavy equipment and invasive procedures such as blasting around karst features.
Why you can't drink here
All the springs in the Eureka Springs area are deemed unsuitable for drinking due to fecal coliform contamination.
Much of this contamination comes from public and private sewer lines, many of them very old, serving about 1,800 customers.
Every homeowner is responsible for the private sewer service line running to the city's main sewer service line.
Preserving the springs
According to the Guide, in general, springs flourish when they are left alone. If a homeowner has a spring on his property, it suggests keeping the spring cleared of trash and excess detritus such as leaves.
It also recommends keeping one's presence minimal. Organisms living in karst areas move out when human presence increases.
The Springs Committee hopes to build awareness and help preserve this beautiful and unique core of the community.
For more information, to send donations, or to contact the Parks and Recreation Department call 253-2866, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.